“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”
Jacques; As You Like It by William Shakespeare, Act II, Scene VII,
It has happened to us all before – more powerful than any form of déjà-vu, or even the intensity of Proust’s madeleine – and though Shakespeare’s melancholy Jacques may not have been the most appreciative of spectators of it, some of us may see things with a more enthusiastic eye. Indeed, seeing one’s life represented in utter clarity and perfection can truly be a most overwhelming experience.
In the lyrics of a song; the words of a poem; an anecdote told by a friend, reciting the joys or mishaps that have befallen some unrelated friend – suddenly our ears prick up, our eyes grow a little wider, and yet we’re sure to not believe what we hear or see. Right before you is a flawless representation of… you. If you’d said it or written it yourself, you could not have done better and yet there it is.
This awe-inspiring feeling of connection and resemblance could not have been far from the minds of the few, the fortunate food aficionados and food bloggers who were given the privilege to be among the first to watch Julie & Julia.
A little background: Julie & Julia is based on two culinary books on the lives of two women who could not have been more different and yet had so much in common:
The first, My Life in France by Julia Child, tells the story of how the exuberantly ebullient wife of an expatriate American spy/diplomat turned to cooking to while away her days, heedless of the fact that it would become a lifelong passion which would transform America’s relationship to cooking – and the cookbook – forever.
The second, Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, tells Julie’s tale of embarking on a personal challenge to cook all the recipes of Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (524 recipes, no less) in one year (365 days, and no more!) to counterbalance her dreary demoralizing day job, while recounting the whole adventure in her blog, the Julie/Julia Project.
These two ingredients are cooked together by the masterchef, Nora Ephron and served with an inspiring dose of theatrical genius in the form of Meryl Streep and the down-to-earth, this-is-real talents of Amy Adams.
From the first scene, the feeling was there, Mathilde is Julia Child – albeit a younger, prettier French version – I am Paul Child – add the hair and… well. What’s more though, Mathilde is Julie Powell – the same passion, the same temperament and just as much drive – I am Eric Powell – the supportive, yet slightly bewildered side passenger on this culinary expedition that is Mathilde’s Cuisine.
As the story unfolds, that first spine-tinkling gasp becomes a continuous humming of pride. Look what we’ve accomplished! Oh wait, that’s not us… but yes it is! Just as Paul Child asks Julia what she really likes to do, Mathilde’s answer was already in my ears, “Eat!”. Or Julia’s voiceless, moaning appreciation of her sole meunière, a perfect interpretation of Mathilde’s every visit to a restaurant.
And Julie’s more modern plight seemed no less different to our daily routines: her blogger’s trauma of self-imposed deadlines, her tenacity to ‘finish’ her blog against all odds, having battled half the evening away against pot and pan, chicken and beef to serve up meals, each one better than the last. And there I am, anachronistically standing on a chair over Julia’s shoulder, trying to angle things just right for the perfect picture. We all play our little parts…
As a final point to honour the Julie & Julia experience, we’ve invited a blogger friend to dinner this evening, ready to share our passions and conversation and a meal prepared especially for the occasion. What else but the infamous Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon.